One of our alert authors pointed out to me an excellent article by Michael Hyatt which describes the case for why physical books are superior to e-books.
He makes real sense, writing that:
- It is easier to remember what you have read in a physical book essentially because you have ‘boundaries’ being the dimensions of the page. Research has shown that placing the words you want to remember at the top, middle, left or right of a page gives you a ‘tag’ to remember the word, whereas an e-reader has no such framework, being free flowing text.
- Another advantage (not mentioned by Michael Hyatt) is that in a physical book on paper you can underline passages, make notes in the margin in pencil, even have an eraser handy to rub out in case you change your mind. All this is very handy for non-fiction books that you want to study. Dedicated e-readers also have a note making facility, but this is not as easy as simply wielding a sharp pencil.
On the other hand e-books have some compelling advantages:
- More or less instant deivery at no cost. Why wait two or three weeks and pay almost as much as the book in delivery charges?
- e-Books can cost a mere fraction of what a physical book will cost, with some books even free. In these harder economic times, low cost becomes a really good reason to choose an e-book.
- If read on a tablet, it becomes a simple matter to click on the embedded hyperlinks to reach related reading, referencing and other supportive material found in non-fiction. Doing this in a physical book becomes a real mission and close to impossible unless you have access to an academic library.
Will physical books survive?
More than 70% of books sold in bookstores are popular fiction, which is ideal to read on an e-reader; the quick holiday / air flight read to be given away when finished. So if fiction is moving to e-readers the thought is that bookstores are going to have a hard time surviving on 30% of their sales in paper books. Bookstores are likely to get smaller and fewer of them, and if this market is declining then publishers too will be less inclined to take on the risk of a print run, and maybe not at all if it is a niche or specialist title.
Printed books could survive a couple of years longer, but you can count on them becoming more expensive and more difficult to find.